Working In An Open Plan Office - How to make it work for you - PART 1

16/07/2019

As a DSE Assessor, the most common complaint I hear is to do with noise levels in open plan offices

Research has shown that productivity can drop by 66% as a result of unwanted noise.

Having less physical barriers in an open plan office does encourage communication, however, this can also make employees feel interrupted, distracted and overwhelmed. 

Open plan office workers can lose 28% of their time to interruptions and distractions, and it can take 25 minutes to regain flow.

In fact, there does not appear to be that much love for the open plan office, despite the promise of high levels of collaboration between staff and an increase in creativity.


If working in an open place office is not for you, try some of the following tips to make your working environment more tolerable:

  • Noise-cancelling headphones

There is plenty of research that shows the most destructive sound is other people's conversations. 

So, you could block that out by using some noise cancelling headphones and play some music or white noise. Whilst wearing them colleagues will also leave you alone.

Personally, I could do with a pair of these, I'm trying to write this with my husband next to me who is on the phone and I cannot hear myself think!!!


  • Interruption stoplight

Now hear me out with this one, try using something that symbols to colleagues that you are trying to focus and do not want to be interrupted. 

One example of this is a manager that gave all of his colleagues a block with one side painted red and the other green. Green means you're available, red you are focused and do not want to be interrupted.


  • Adjust your schedule

Schedule your week so that you are in the office for meetings and collaboration part of your week and work from home the rest of the week. 

This suggestion won't work for everyone, but if you can make it work for you it is the best of both worlds.


  • Designated spaces for different purposes

A break out space is the perfect solution, allowing colleagues to collaborate and have impromptu meetings whilst not disturbing people at their desks trying to focus. 

If you are not lucky enough to have one of these spaces, use meeting rooms. Why not try and block book out a room every afternoon so that if anyone needs some quiet space they know they can use the room in the afternoon and organise their time accordingly.


  • Office code of conduct

We spend the majority of our time at work and so how we work together is important. Take into consideration how other people like to work and come up with some agreed upon rules.

  • Consider changing the layout of the office and some of the furniture. 

Have collaborative spaces away from workstations with meeting rooms nearby and carefully consider whether you have enough noise cancelling screens.


There are some great acoustic screens available that reduce noise levels, such as wall panels and ceiling panels for exactly this purpose. 

You can even invest in some office pods. Contact us today and let us help you by providing you with solutions to allow your employees to focus.

Source: Fremgroup                                                                                                           Source: Fremgroup


Maybe a semi-open plan office is the way forward to keep concentration levels and encourage collaboration!

Debbie Wilson